Integrity in governance
Integrity refers to “honesty” or “trustworthiness” in the discharge of official duties, serving as an antithesis to “corruption” or “the abuse of office.
Integrity and probity in public life are the standards that society expects those elected or appointed to public office to observe and maintain in the conduct of the public affairs to which they have been entrusted. These standards are what safeguard the nation from corruption by politicians and public officials who have been given almost unrestricted access to public resources together with the power to take decisions that impact on the lives of everyone and the nation as a whole. It follows that those in positions of power can use these positions to take decisions that are solely in the public interest or they can use them to benefit themselves, friends, and in the case of politicians, their party supporters to the exclusion of others. There is mounting evidence, documented by Transparency International among others, that given their privileged position those in power can and sometimes do inflict immense, often irreparable, damage on the country by acting in any other than in the public interest.
The absence of integrity and probity in public life is manifested in corruption which is a worldwide phenomenon. But its impact is strongest and most pervasive in small states that already suffer from all the known disadvantages that characterize smallness such as unfavorable economies of scale, high per capita cost of government, remoteness, and distance from large markets and centers of large populations among others. In addition to all these, small States also tend to suffer from ineffective parliamentary oversight, weak and undeveloped systems of checks and balances like a strong and independent media as well as civil society groups with the capacity to investigate, challenge and call to account those in positions of power. Leaders who are corrupt will exploit these weaknesses to the fullest to enrich themselves and those closest to them at the expense of the country.
INTEGRITY in public officials is fundamental to social confidence and prosperity. If rules aren't applied equally to all citizens and if officials are persuaded or induced to allow themselves to be influenced by relationships, politics, money or other rewards, then societies can lapse into chaos.
The values of integrity, transparency and accountability in public administrations have enjoyed resurgence within the past three decades or so. Sound public administration involves public trust. Citizens expect public servants to serve the public interest with fairness and to manage public resources properly on a daily basis. Fair and reliable public services and predictable decision-making inspire public trust and create a level playing field for businesses, thus contributing to well-functioning markets and economic growth. The integrity, transparency and accountability of public administrations are a prerequisite to and underpin public trust, as a keystone of good governance. Corruption and maladministration in this context could be seen as not only individual acts but also the results of systemic failure and indication of “weak governance.” Publicized corruption and administrative failure cases have had a major negative impact on trust in public decision making.
Since the end of the Cold War, the world has witnessed spreading democratization, a shift in balance between the state and market forces as more countries seek to integrate into global capitalism, and changes in social mores that inevitably accompany such political and economic transformations. “The world has more democratic countries and more political participation than ever, with 140 countries holding multiparty elections. Of 147 countries with data, 121—with 68% of the world’s people—had some or all of the elements of formal democracy in 2000.”10 It can be argued that globalization, the term coined in the 1980’s for describing “a new context for and a new connectivity among economic actors and activities throughout the world,” is the main driver of change of our times. Globalization—through the increasing interpenetration of markets, the interdependence of sovereign states, and the fostering of a civil society at the global level—is bringing home the reality of the notion, the global community. No nation can stay an “island” and remain untouched. Globalization has made possible a rapid diffusion of ideas and practices, enabling the public to demand higher standards of integrity, transparency, accountability in the public sector.
Within this context, roughly three phases in the resurgence of integrity, transparency and accountability in public administration can be discerned from a global perspective. First, from the late 1980s into the 90s, the taboo on discussing about corruption—or the absence or distortion of these values—was broken as public debates began on the problem. Mass mobile zations took place against corruption, voicing opposition towards its harmful effects in countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, China, Brazil and Venezuela. Transparency International, the global non-governmental advocacy organization for fighting corruption, was established in 1993.
Second, from the mid-1990s to 2003, the international community began to set regional and international standards. Often spurred by the desire to create a “level playing field” in international trade, some of these standards were aimed at prohibiting bribery of foreign public officials. These standards were introduced in conventions such as the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Convention Against Corruption (1996), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Convention Against Bribery (1997), Council of Europe’s Criminal and Civil Conventions (1999), African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (2003) and the UN Convention Against Corruption.
Third, the world has entered a decade characterized by the need to implement and enforce these standards and other legal and administrative instruments. This current stage is perhaps the most daunting for public administration, as successful implementation and enforcement require the introduction of new or major modifications to existing institutions and their organizational cultures. Thus all actors—government, private sector and civil society—face this challenge at all levels—international, national and sub-national. These trends provide the context for the emerging issues.
In its wider connotation, integrity would include intellectual honesty, a free and frank expression of one’s views, a scientific attitude of mind, a high degree of objectivity, and a high sense of justice. All such things are necessary in an administrator.
Unfortunately, an impression has gained ground and not without reason that the bureaucracy is inefficient and corrupt. Some of the criticism may be justified but I think that the bulk of the civil service is still honest and it is only a small percentage of people which brings a bad name to the entire service. But this group however small is large enough to cause grave concern to all of us. We must give deep thought to this problem. Of course, there are no easy solutions but we cannot give up.
The criticism of the bureaucracy being corrupt has to be looked at in a wider context of the general socio-economic climate in which we are living. The civil service is after all only a cross – section of society. In the matter of integrity, it cannot be expected to rise to a level much above that of the rest of intelligentsia. If the standard of integrity among public servants is to be raised, it will have to be done in case of other professions as well such as lawyers, doctors, businessmen, industrialists, publicmen and politicians. In fact, the need today is to raise the moral values of the society at large. A permanent and long-term solution to the problem of integrity in public service will therefore be inculcation of this virtue in the coming generations at the right impressionable age. Much more emphasis will have to be laid on moral values and character building and it has to start in the homes, in the families, schools and colleges. But precept alone with not do. There have to be men and women of sterling character who can serve as models and whom the coming generation may emulate. It is a difficult task but a beginning has to be made.
Another important fact to b remembered is that being personally honest is not enough. You are responsible for the conduct of your subordinates as well. You have to evolve measures which minimize the opportunity available to your subordinates to exploit people. One can think of organizational arrangements and close supervision over the work of the subordinates which make it difficult, if not impossible indulge in malpractices. I would like to discuss some of such measures with you.
Delays in work are in sign of inefficiency. They are also symptoms of corruption. Orders passed on files are not communicated for days together. Delays in sanctioning license or in issuing them, delays in payments – all such delays are warning signals. A host of other instances of delay in transaction of government business may just arise from unavoidable causes harassment in order to extract a benefit. It should be remembered that delays, whether intentional or due to inefficiency, equally provide opportunity to unscrupulous people to extort illegal gratification. If we want to stamp out corruption from our office, we must first eradicate delays on which it thrives. We must also go into the causes of delays and try to remove them.
The second danger signal of possible existence of corruption is the frequent change of orders. Penalties are first imposed on contractors and suppliers and later on cancelled or reduced; transfer orders are issued but subsequently revised; objections are first raised on bills but afterwards withdrawn and payments made; someone is arrested but later released for want to evidence. Such changes in order readily lend themselves to corruption. To avoid such a situation one should take great care that the decisions one takes are sound and firm and one should be slow in changing them. Revising decisions readily on receipt of recommendations or pressures exposes the organization to corrupt practices at the hands of unscrupulous. Please be on the guard against such practices.
Another factor which helps in curbing malpractices is your accessibility to complainants. If your subordinates know that the harassment they cause will come to your notice and you may pull them up, they will desist from it. You should, therefore, make yourself easily approachable. A time for receiving visitors daily may be fixed and as far as possible no other engagements should be fixed during such visiting hours. Free accessibility does help not only in checking malpractices.
A word of caution must also be said about asking people to meet at the residence. For official business one should see you in your office and not at your residence. There is no reason why representatives of staff, contractors or public should be received at the house and not in the office. Emergency apart, it is a sound practice to meet people in office only for official work.
For a public servant it is not enough to be honest; he must also be known to be honest. In other words, he must have reputation for integrity. A man’s reputation travel far ahead of him and anyone who has established a reputation for honesty, is seldom if ever approached by tempters. Acquisitions of a good reputation is therefore also essential for a drive against corruption.
No doubt, reputation is an intangible thing and depends on what others think and depends on what others think and talk about a person. A question may be raised how does a man create a reputation for himself if it largely depends on other’s perception.
As already mentioned, delays and frequent changes in orders are possible areas for corruption for flourish. These two factors mar the reputation of an administrator. One has to check these two things. As an old saying goes, “a man is known by the company he keeps”. Being seen with or keeping company of persons of a doubtful reputation is liable to besmirch your own reputation. There is also the danger of such persons exploiting your relationship with them. There is need to exercise utmost caution in accepting recommendations of such persons. For the same reason, it is dangerous to have any favorites among your subordinates. Some of them may trade on your obvious kindness to them injuring your reputation. Though not many people realize, great harm is done to one’s reputation by backing wrong or undeserving persons. Extending protection to wrong persons when they are in trouble or supporting them for promotion, posting or preferment of any other kind damages you reputation also. One must desist from it.
Ground rules for Integrity: Do’s and Don’ts
- Fulfill your duties and obligations responsibly
- Always act in a way that is professional and that deserves and retains the confidence of all those with whom you have dealings
- Carry out your fiduciary obligations responsibly (that is make sure public money and other resources are used properly and efficiently);
- Deal with the public and their affairs fairly, efficiently, promptly, effectively and sensitively, to the best of your ability
- Keep accurate official records and handle information as openly as possible within the legal framework
- Comply with the law and uphold the administration of justice.
1. Misuse your official position, for example by using information acquired in the course of your official duties to further your private interests or those of others.
2. Accept gifts or hospitality or receive other benefits from anyone which might reasonably be seen to compromise your personal judgment or integrity; or Disclose official information without authority. This duty continues to apply after you leave the Civil Service.